Excerpted from Living That Matters: Honest Conversations for Men of Faith by Steve Thomas and Don Neufeld. Used by permission of Herald Press. All rights reserved.
Brené Brown defines shame as "the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging." Living with or in shame goes deeper than dealing with behaviors, shortcomings, and errors. Shame strikes at the center of who we are, telling us we are flawed and unworthy at our very core and that this awful reality can never change, because it's just the way we are. Shame leaves us feeling that there is no way out other than medicating our pain or looking for someone or something to unload our self-loathing on.
Believing that masculinity must be proven and maintained through performance, men are especially prone to the effects of shame. As Brown writes, shame for men means failure, being wrong, defective, soft, weak, fearful. When we're ridiculed or called out for any of these things, it's like a strong punch to the gut. "Basically," Brown writes, "men live under the pressure of one unrelenting message: Do not be perceived as weak."
Shame is strong. It can undermine courage, connection, and vulnerability. But it cannot endure self-compassion and honesty, especially when practiced in the loving embrace of true relationship. When someone welcomes us with an open heart and affirms our worthiness, it unlocks a door to share honestly about the things that are most difficult to face about ourselves. When we speak our shame in the presence of that welcoming other, shame's power over our life withers.
Living that Matters: Honest Conversations for Men of Faith serves as a men's guide for conversation and reflection and includes 70 topics, like Sexuality, for use by individuals or groups. Order Living that matters: Honest Conversations for Men of Faith HERE.